Lisa Osman is the co-owner of All Hallows Farmhouse. She calls herself a cook, but she's a specialist in Aga cookery, in slow food and in making foodies feel welcome at her cookery school. The school is in the tiny hamlet of Wimborne St Giles, an area of outstanding beauty in Dorset. She talks to Lisa Jenkins about her path to All Hallows
Where did you train as a chef?
I spent 16 years managing my own catering company, which was a natural course for me, having spent my childhood being taught to cook by my grandmother. My grandparents had a milk delivery business and a dairy farm shop. I learned how to pluck pheasants, keep and butcher pigs, milk cows and make butter and cream. The kitchen table was always laden with food.
So you'd been taught well - did you move on from the farm?
Yes, in my early twenties I went to work on a private estate and had to learn very quickly how to cook on an Aga. I worked there for 18 months. I created family menus, cooked lunch for the family and organised dinner parties.
My work as a private chef increased but we were always on the lookout for premises for a school. In the meantime, I went on a lot of courses, such as food hygiene and teacher training.
How did you finally find the right property?
I took a Labrador off an old lady's hands about 10 years prior to opening the school. She lived at All Hallows and insisted I visit her there before letting me have the dog. Her house was perfect for the school. She eventually sold it back to the Estate [the Earl of Shaftesbury] and when we found out it had come up for lease, I knew that we had to have it.
Luckily, we had a business plan and they agreed - it was a relatively smooth process for a grade II-listed building. We opened as a school on 14 December 2013, one month after moving in.
What's the focus of the school?
There was a big demand for Aga cookery courses and I was asked to write a monthly recipe column for Dorset Magazine called 'Warm from the Aga'. I'm also an approved cookery school for Aga, one of only six in the UK.
What's special about food that's been cooked in an Aga?
It's a radiant, gentle heat that doesn't dry food out and retains its moisture. The Aga is always on - it's always ready and it slow-cooks perfectly. A lot of commercial chefs use an Aga at home.
Have you achieved your dream?
I'm in control and I'm free to choose what I source and what I cook. I'm real and honest and sharing my passion for dishes that use the best ingredients that I can afford. It's the whole story, hospitality in its truest form, back to the farmhouse.
Osman is a member of Slow Food's Chef Alliance in the UK, and will represent the organisation at the Alliance's annual event in Turin in September. She is also a judge for the World Cheese Awards and an arbitrator for the Great Taste Awards.
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